Years of Shelbourne Internationals
A momentous milestone has now been passed
in our club's great history. One hundred years ago on 17 February
1906, Val Harris walked on to the pitch at Solitude in Belfast
and became the first Shelbourne player to represent Ireland
against England. What was a proud moment for Harris, was also
a great reward for the club who had made the brave desicion
in 1904 to join the Irish League and had made an even braver
decision to turn professional in 1905. Harris was the first
of twenty nine players to win full international honours while
playing for The Reds. But who were these players and what
part did they play in our club's history? Red Inc. investigates....
Val Harris who became the club's first international was also
Shels first legend. His first team debut came in 1903 in the
Leinster Senior League and even before becoming an international
he was representing the Irish League for the first of four
times against the Football League. In Shels first season in
the Irish League, he helped the club to the IFA Cup Final
which was to end in defeat to Distillery. However, twelve
months later he was to lead the club to Irish Cup success
as Shels beat Belfast Celtic 2-0 in the cup final to become
the first Dublin club ever to win a national trophy. After
winning his sixth cap in Wales, Harris was persuaded to sign
for Everton in a move that saw The Reds pick up the then maximum
transfer fee of £350. In 1913 he captained the first
ever Ireland team to beat England and then a year later he
returned home and resigned for Shels where he was to win another
Irish Cup winners medal in 1920 and continued playing with
The Reds up until 1927. After playing a total of 160 Irish
League and League of Ireland games for The Reds, he went on
to manage the first Shels team to win the FAI Cup in 1939.
Harris was not the only Red to play for the IFA international
team. Joe Ledwidge won two caps in the same season as Harris
made his debut and played alongside him in that season's historic
IFA Cup win. John Baffle won the first of his two caps in
1909 in Bradford, P Warren won two caps in 1913, and after
World War I ended Ed Brookes became the last Shels player
to be capped by the IFA before the split when he won his only
cap in Galsgow in 1920.
When the new Free State association formed in 1921 it was
not to field a full representitive side until 1926. And when
the side took to the field in Turin against Italy, Mick 'Boxer'
Foley and Fran Watters ensured Shels had two players capped
there on that historic occasion in Irish football. The following
season Billy Lacey, who had left for Merseyside with Val Harris
in 1908 except that he went to the red side, won the first
of his three internationals caps against Italy in Dublin.
Lacey then became the first ever Shels player to score an
international goal when he scored on 12 February 1928 in a
4-2 over Belgium in Liège. Another Shels player, Joe
Kinsella, made won his only international cap in the same
match. As Shels marched to League Championship succes for
the second time in 1928/29, the side's top scorer David 'Babby'
Byrne, a Ringsend man who had returned home from Bradford
City, scored on his international debut as Ireland crushed
Belgium 4-0 at home.
Into the thirties, and two Shels players made their debuts
together against Spain during a 1-1 draw in Barcelona in what
turned out to be The Reds' third League winning season of
1930/31. The first, Paddy Byrne who also made 3 inter-league
appearances, won a second cap the following season in a 2-0
win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam while the other Harry
Chatton, then moved to Scotland to play for Dumbarton. In
the 1931/32 season George Lennox won his only cap as a Redsman
in a 5-0 home defeat against Spain. Then in the 1933/34 season
Johnny Squires scored on his debut in a 5-2 defeat in Amsterdam,
but was never given another chance on the international stage.
Squires international goal-scoring debut was to be the last
time a Redsman would play international football until after
the end of World War II. Gerry Malone won his only cap in
a 2-0 home defeat against Belgium alongside fellow Red Brendan
Carroll who was to have more luck on his second and final
international sappearance when Ireland crushed Finland 3-0.
Carroll also played on Shels fifth and sixth League title
winning sides of 1946/47 and 1952/53. Another member of that
latter side, Martin Colfer, won his two caps in Brussels and
Oslo in the early fifties.
During the 1954/55 season Eddie Gannon during his thrid stint
with The Reds won two caps in Oslo and Hamburg. Gannon had
already won international caps during spells with Notts County
and Sheffield Wednesday and also played eleven times for the
LoI's inter-league side scoring twice. Two seasons later Dermot
Curtis international career got started when he scored on
his debut in Dalymount Park in a World Cup qualifier against
Denmark and then shortly after played against West Germany
in a friendly. Curtis also played twice and scored once for
the inter-league side but then moved to England where he won
further caps while with Bristol City, Ipswich Town, and Exeter
City. The final Shels player to be capped in the fifties was
Christy Doyle. 1958/59 was to be his big season. He won his
only full interntional cap against Czechoslovakia in a European
Nations Cup tie while he also played twice and scored once
for both the Republic of Ireland 'B' team and the LoI's representitive
side. The 1959/60 season wasn't bad for him either as over
32,000 packed in to Dalyer to watch him play his part in The
Reds 2-0 defeat of Cork Hibs in the FAI Cup Final.
The 1965/66 season saw for the first and only time ever three
Shels player play for the same Ireland team. Freddis Strahan,
Joe Haverty, and Jackie Hennessy, all Shels lagends in their
own right were the Redsmen who all played in a friendly in
Dalyer against the West Germans, who later on that season
were to reach the World Cup Final. Strahan was a long-serving
player who was a stalward of Gerry Doyle's great sides. He
helped The Reds to the League Championship of 1962 (won in
a play-off over Cork Celtic) and FAI Cup wins over Cork Hibs
in both 1960 and 1963. Strahan won five international caps,
scoring in Dalyer against England as well as making seven
inter-league appearances. Like Strahan, Jackie Hennessy was
a part of the league and cup successes of the early sixties.
He was part of the Shels FAI Minor Cup winning team of 1959
along with Tommy Carroll who won international caps after
moving to England, Tony Dunne another international regular
who won the European Cup with Manchester United in 1968 along
with Best, Charlton et al, and Eric Barber. Hennessy also
scored the Reds' first ever European goal in Lisbon as Shels
crashed out of the Champions Cup of 1962/63 to Sporting.
Joe Haverty meanwhile became Shels most capped player ever.
He returned home having played for a host of clubs in Britain
including Arsenal and Celtic and was already a well established
international by the time he won the last seven of his thirty-two
caps with The Reds. Haverty appeared in one of the most notorious
international games in the FAI's history. Having won at home
and lost away to Spain, a play-off against the Spanish was
set for Wembley-effectively a home game for Ireland-with a
place in the 1966 World Cup to be held in England at stake.
The Spanish offered to play the game in Paris and let the
FAI keep all the gate receipts. The FAI agreed and Ireland
went down 1-0. And with it went the chances of playing at
the World Cup Finals for some of Shelbourne's greats.
Eric Barber is another legend from the sixties. Our all time
leading league scorer, he made his only international appearance
alongside Joe Haverty in Seville. Having graduated from the
'59 FAI Minor Cup winning team, he played his part in the
successes of the early sixties. He scored in every round in
the 1960 Cup win including one in the final which was reported
as being from over thirty-five yards out. He also scored in
Lisbon in the Fairs Cup of 1964/65 as The Reds claimed their
first European scalp, Portugese side Belenenses. Shels then
went out to Athletico Madrid in the following round losing
1-0 both at home and away. Barber then left to play in England,
USA, and Austria before returning home to The Reds and got
into the history books as he became the first player to be
sent off in an FAI Cup Final in the 1973 replay defeat in
Flower Lodge against Cork Hibs. Another of Barber's team mates
from the '73 Cup Final, Willie Newman was the last Shels player
capped in the sixties winning his only cap in Copenhagen in
the 1968/69 season.
The great Shels international tradition continued into the
seventies as Paddy Dunning picked up two caps in the 1970/71
season. The following season saw both Mick Gannon, who was
to set a new record for league appearances in a red shirt,
and Paddy Roche, who would subsequently be sold to Manchester
United, win an international cap against Austria in Linz.
After that Shels, along with the LoI, wuld go into decline
for some time. Stephen Geogeghan was called up to the squad
for the infamous World Cup qualifier in Skopje, but failed
to make the bench as Mick McCarthy's side were humiliated.
In 2002, the recently departed Wes Houlihan made the bench
for a friendly in Athens, but went unused by stand-in boss
Don Givens. Finally in 2004, Jason Byrne made his international
debut in a friendly away to Poland. Top scorer in the League
each season since signing from Bray three years, Jayo has
set a new record by scoring six European goals for The Reds
as well as having won back-to-back championships.
So what does the next hundred years hold for Shels players
on the international front? Will we have another twenty-nine
players capped between now and 2106? Will we have players
capped playing for other countries? Will we have a Redsman
playing at the finals of a major international tournament?
After all who could have predicted the last hundred years
on that day Val Harris walked out onto Cliftonville's pitch?
Back then there was only one Irish international team playing
games against England, Wales, and Scotland every year.....